With crystal clear waters, palm trees swaying in the breeze and fresh coconuts complete with a straw and ready to drink, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince anyone that Zanzibar is one of the most incredible destinations on the continent of Africa. However, with such a rapid rise in popularity of late and a booming tourism industry (Zanzibar relies on it), this article explains why now is the best time to visit the magical spice island of Zanzibar.
1. To enjoy the beaches all to yourself
There are few island paradises left where you can walk out of your hotel room and enjoy the beach all to yourself. With just 12 rooms on the island, Mnemba Island off the coast of Zanzibar is one such paradise only the most discerning, in-the-know travelers have visited.
If a visit to Mnemba is a little out of the budget, you’ll be glad to learn that many beaches in Zanzibar are unpopulated, vast and waiting for you to enjoy. With tourism numbers progressively on the rise, now is a great time to enjoy pockets of this island paradise all to yourself.
2. See the Sky come to life
Every morning and every evening of my stay in Zanzibar I enjoyed a natural light show as the sky came to life at both sunrise and sunset. The skies are as vivid as you could imagine, with palettes of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows lighting up the sky in the early hours of the morning and just prior to dinner of an evening.
3. Experience the Local Way of Life on board a sailboat
Sailing away in to the sunset, I couldn’t help but to pinch myself to ensure this was real life: champagne in one hand, camera in the other, it was as if I had the entire sea all to myself as the sun began to set on the island of Mnemba to my right, and the coast of Zanzibar to my left.
Fishing and seafood is understandably a large part of the local culture given the natural resources, so even if you aren’t a seafood eater (I’ve been a vegetarian for 11 years), you can still enjoy the culture and gain a better understanding for island life!
4. Eat local, hearty and flavorsome food
Back over on the mainland of Zanzibar, one simply cannot come to the island without visiting Stone Town and sampling an array of local cuisine that will leave your mouth watering at the addition of fresh spices to bring even the simplest dishes to life!
A wander around Stone Town will introduce you to a range of street food, market food, and charming little cafes to stop and watch the world go by.
5. Kayak on some of the world’s clearest water
One of my biggest highlights for my time in Zanzibar was spending time on the water: kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, boating… you name it! After previously dubbing the Maldives and Fiji with the world’s clearest waters for snorkelling, I think my visit to Zanzibar has shown me that the final addition to this trifecta is Mnemba Island!
Every day visitors to Zanzibar board a local boat and make the trek to snorkel around this exclusive island retreat, as it is home to a vast range of marine wildlife and offers some of the world’s most clear waters, perfect for water activities!
6. Stay in a Traditional Banda
Picture yourself just metres away from the beach, barefoot and living in bikinis? Sounds like you’re in need of banda life! Traditional bandas are a beachside bungalow of sorts, and here in Zanzibar that often means no doors or windows… just the sea breeze and sandy feet!
7. It is one of the most romantic places on earth
Looking for a unique honeymoon destination to remember for years and decades to come? Look no further! There are many great hidden beaches, islands, and luxury boutique hotels to discover in Zanzibar. From romantic beachside dinners to isolated bandas and private beach escapes, there’s an endless amount of romance on offer!
8. To visit Stone Town’s vibrant market streets
A visit to Stone Town is sure to be filled with vibrant colours, an aroma of spices, friendly locals and plenty of chaos! As you walk the streets you will notice the locals chime in as they greet visitors with a friendly Jambo or Hakuna Matata. The liveliest part of town is of course the local markets, filled with all sorts of spices, fruits, vegetables and meats to attract locals and visitors alike.
9. Step back through time to understand slave history
While in Stone Town, be sure to visit the old slave market and museum for an understanding of the slave trade and how this impacted the history of Zanzibar. As one of the world’s last operating slave trade markets, the slave market site is a prominent point of interest in Stone Town for visitors looking for a deeper understanding of slave history across Africa and how colonization impacted the continent.
10. Out-of-this-world Marine wildlife experiences
With some of the world’s clearest waters and an impressive display of marine wildlife, it is little wonder visitors flock to Zanzibar to snorkel and dive. Mnemba island is the most popular place for snorkelling, with day trips departing Zanzibar each morning.
11. Clock off from reality
I often find that switching off is the best way to switch on and Zanzibar was no exception. All the wonderful activities aside, Zanzibar is also a great place to unwind, relax, and clock up some well-deserved beach hours. Don’t forget to bring a book!
12. Try the real Coconut Water
Zanzibar is tropical island living at its best and that means fresh fruits are in abundance! Coconuts are plentiful in Zanzibar, so grab yourself the real deal, slam a straw in to it and kick back with a coconut water as the world passes you by. Pineapples and bananas are also in excess, so if you enjoy your sweeter fruits be sure to try these, too!
13. Discover the Doors of Stone Town
One of Zanzibar’s biggest draw cards is the old worldly charm of Stone Town, so be sure to spend at least half a day here to explore the hidden gems found throughout the winding alleyways. One of my favourite ways to explore Stone Town was discovering all of the beautiful old doors, which offer an insight into another world that time has surpassed but still kept sacred.
14. Discover the place Freddy Mercury was born
Calling all Freddy Mercury fans: Stone Town is where the entertainer was born and boy do the locals get a kick out of it! As one of Zanzibar’s most famous inhabitant, Freddy Mercury is a highly celebrated local celeb. If you’re a fan, be sure to drop by and see the exterior of the house (it is a private residence) and get snap happy.